#believewomen (Easter Sunday)

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In today’s day and age, hashtags have tremendous power and influence. There are the overused and safe hashtags like: #suitcasetraveler and #love and #nofilter, that have a great following and get a lot of peripheral attention. However, there are also hashtags that create movements, often popularized by people who feel they have been silenced, oppressed, or misrepresented.

One example is the #believewomen movement.
Because of the energy this movement has stirred up, many women have come forward with shocking, hard to believe stories of harassment, abuse, and manipulation.

Now, I realize there are many varied opinions on this movement, with most of the uncomfortableness centering around the possibility of deception, false allegations, and reputation.

When confronted with the unbelievable, our natural reaction is, “I can’t imagine this!” with the underlying notion being, “therefore, it can’t be true.” And if it isn’t true, then it’s not really happening; it’s not really a big deal; and everything remains the same.

However, if we can put our personal biases aside, I think, generally speaking, we can agree that choosing to believe the ‘unbelievable’ shakes up our world views; choosing to believe the ‘unbelievable’ grants personhood and value; choosing to believe the ‘unbelievable’ is an act of faith.

Even if we haven’t experienced the events others have withstood, even if we haven’t seen what others have seen, even if we haven’t heard what others have heard… it doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist or it hasn’t happened.

At this point you’re probably thinking, “It’s Easter. Aren’t we supposed to be talking about Jesus rising from the dead? And exactly why is she making us think so hard on too little coffee and too many jellybeans?”

It’s a fair question: What does this all have to do with Jesus?

In my opinion, the entire #believewomen movement turns upon a spiritual axis – that of witnessing and testimony. The entire premise is: Don’t just listen, but believe.
And that matters profoundly on Easter. 

Additionally, while contemporary women would argue that they instituted the #believewomen movement in 2018, Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Mary the mother of James, probably have a stronger claim to the moniker than anyone else.

Unlikely women from all walks of life… who aren’t believed.

These women traipsed to the tomb at deep dawn, shockingly found it empty, had an encounter with two men who reminded them that Jesus said he would be raised, and raced back to tell the others what had happened, because they knew this mattered so much. They knew this would change the course of history.

They believed. But, they weren’t believed.

I can’t ask Mary Magdalene how she felt when the disciples rolled their eyes at the ‘unbelievable’ news she shared. But, I can imagine what it might have felt like as modern theologians portrayed her as a prostitute, while artists painted her in revealing clothes.

I can’t ask Joanna what fire stirred in her while they snickered underneath their breath at her emotionality, despite the fact she had already risked so much in terms of money and position for the sake of Jesus. And to support the disciples.

I can’t ask Mary the mother of James why nobody knows her story, but everyone knows Peter’s story and Thomas’s story and Judas’s story. I can’t ask her how it felt to have those she trusted raise their eyebrows at her and dismiss her words as ‘idle tale.’

I can’t ask them, but I am certain it marked them for life. How could it not?

Now, before I go too much further, being generous towards the disciples, it is true that the resurrection of someone who was quite thoroughly dead is a rather difficult story to accept. It’s rather difficult for us still today, maybe more so. Yet, I can’t help but think that the women were quickly dismissed and not taken seriously due to their low status. This isn’t simply a biased read – the text itself supports it. Peter alone wonders what the women actually saw – maybe they are telling the truth – and he decides to check it out for himself. Peter does not see the men or hear their reminders; he only sees the linen cloths, however when coupled with the women’s story, he believes that something amazing has happened.

And the disciples believe Peter, leaving everyone muttering, “So, the women were right?”

Yeah. The women were right; they were telling the truth; they were preachers.
It’s probably apparent why this moment in time is important to me personally, given my gender and vocation.

But, the real question is why does it matter if we believe the women? Why does it matter if we believe Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and any other women who may have been there that fateful morning and remain unnamed, lost in the pages of history? Why women, in the first place?

I mean, given that women were generally ignored within in society, they seem unlikely prophets. Gifting the resurrection story first to women seems like a terrible way to change the world.
Or, it’s utterly brilliant! I’m going to go with ‘brilliant,’ because typically speaking, God seems to gravitate towards brilliant, unexpected, and good.

See, people who aren’t believed, but who are telling the truth, often have a tenacity that is almost impossible to squelch: a fire burns in their belly, compelling them to proclaim the truth no matter the consequence to them personally. Inspired testimony can change the world. Indeed, it does change the world. We know this was true 2000 years ago and we know it to be true today. 

Now, ultimately, it doesn’t matter whether the disciples believed the women, whether strangers believed the women, whether their own families believed them…
Because belief or unbelief cannot change the fact that Jesus rose from the dead and the women became Easter to everyone they encountered that resurrection day (and every day after that).

There is no Risen Christ in this Gospel text. Jesus is no where to be found. He has nothing to say, nothing to show. The resurrection is seen, heard, and experienced only through the women.
They embody living hope; they embody a new reality; they proclaim a new truth.
They live it and breathe it. They become Easter, at a time when the world desperately needed Easter.
Needed hope.
Needed breath.
Needed dawn.
Needed to be raised.

And what is remarkable, what is so very hopeful for us – who desperately, longingly, unequivocally need Easter – is they became Easter while darkness loomed large, while it was still night, while they could not see where they were going, while the stench of death lingered, while they were still grieving, while they were weeping…
While they were experiencing fear, bewilderment, pain, and uncertainty the resurrection began.

Against all odds…the resurrection happened. Questionable messengers, unbelieving disciples, oppressive empires, a bloody cross, a night without end, and a cold tomb couldn’t stop Jesus from rising.

But Jesus wasn’t the only one raised on Easter.
So were the women.
And the disciples.
And the two men on the crosses next to Him.
And Pilate.
And Judas.
And you and me.

No matter how unbelievable it may sound; nothing can stop the resurrection from happening to you. We may not be able to imagine how it will happen; but praise the Lord, God does wonders with the unbelievable.
So, go ahead and tell God that it’s all an idle tale.
Go ahead and tell God you believe that death gets the final word.
Go ahead and tell God the stone on your heart is too heavy.
None of this is news to God.
He has heard it all before.
He simply refuses to believe it.